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Top of West Virginia CVB plans for growth

WEIRTON — The last year has been about growth and change for the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

When Terri Phillips was given the reins of the CVB in October 2019, she knew it was time for the tourism agency tasked with promoting Hancock and Brooke counties to take its next step.

Within five months, the CVB moved its offices, from a 1,200-square-foot space at 3393 Main St., to an 11,500-square-foot office just down the street at 3539 Main St.

With a larger area, Phillips said, the CVB will be able to do more to promote the area and what it has to offer, going from a simple brochure rack to sectioned-off displays to showcase each of the communities in the two-county area.

“Each of the cities will have its own section,” she said, noting the largest display area, located in the front of the office and visible from Main Street, has been reserved for the city of Weirton. “They’re going to be well represented.”

The CVB’s partnership with the Top of West Virginia Arts Council, which began several years ago with the creation of the Summit Art Gallery, is continuing in the new office.

“They’ll have their own space,” Phillips said, noting there are two exhibit galleries in the works — one for members of the Top of West Virginia Arts Council and one for visiting artists — as well as space for three classrooms.

This year marks the 25th anniversary for the CVB, and Phillips had plans for several events to celebrate it. Much of it was canceled because of the COVID pandemic, including a grand opening in May for the new offices and a fresh lineup of summer concerts at the Weirton Event Center.

“I had new acts that had never been there before,” she noted, explaining many were groups she has known through her years of marketing experience, which includes work with Jamboree in the Hills. “They were excited.”

As events were canceled and government-imposed restrictions were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, there has been little to do except work on the office. Phillips explained that has included a $20,000 investment by the CVB into the office’s layout, with an additional $25,000 from the building’s owner Steven Recht for a new air conditioning system.

So, Phillips said she was surprised when she heard of plans by the City of Weirton to possibly start its own visitors bureau, an idea discussed by City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo during a council workshop last week.

The Top of WV CVB receives funds from the city through its hotel-motel tax. It also receives funding from the Hancock County Commission derived from Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort. But Phillips said in the year she has been on board, she has not heard any city official express concern about the CVB or its operations. She said she is open to meeting with the Weirton administration to hear their thoughts.

“My door’s open. They can come to me any time,” she said. “I’m happy to listen if there’s a problem.”

In the meantime, Phillips is continuing her efforts to grow awareness of the area, which includes a two-page article and a full-page advertisement in the upcoming holiday issue of “Compass Ohio” magazine. There also are plans for exhibitions at the Summit Gallery, featuring artists from Pittsburgh, Wheeling and areas of Ohio, helping to attract more people to Weirton’s downtown.

“I don’t know of any other city that has this with their convention and visitors bureau,” Phillips said. “I believe we’ll continue to grow, and the city of Weirton will benefit the most.”

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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